What’s the deal with altruism?

I feel that my motivations for how I want to live and who I vote for tend to be pretty altruistic. My thoughts about the future and preserving the planet for future generations must come from somewhere – and this is coming from someone who never plans to have kids of his own.

Al”tru*ism, n. – 1. Regard for others, both natural and moral; devotion to the interests of others; brotherly kindness; — opposed to egoism or selfishness. 2. Zoology. Instinctive cooperative behavior that is detrimental to the individual, but contributes to the survival of the species.

I really thought everyone was like me. Everyone really thought that this was the right way to live – maybe they didn’t always see fit to live like they thought, but they knew they should. In steps Ayn Rand. I had The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged on a list of books to read for going on ten years now. When I finally got around to them, I was sorely disappointed to find Objectivism at the heart of her ideas. Objectivism is nearly the only formulated way of thinking that denies altruism and claims self reward as the only goal of life. I think it was Cam that told me that Rand’s books are the romance novels for Capitalists – and so they seem to me – Capitalists and Republicans too!

However good I feel claiming to be altruistic (or bad since the associated guilt can be bothersome) I still can not explain why I might feel this way. Why should I care? I am not going to have offspring filling the earth. I do not believe that I am going to have to reckon for my sins when my life ends. Why do I care? No really, I am sincerely asking because I don’t know. Here is some reading I have been doing:

Why Altruism?, Altruism: A Scientific Perspective, Ayn Rand dot org, The Fallacies of Egoism and Altruism, and the Fundamental Principle of Morality, Capitalism vs. Altruism and the “Achievements” of the Soviet Empire, The Evolution of Altruism

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